SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Each January, agricultural and food industry leaders gather in Syracuse at the NYS Agricultural Society Annual Meeting & Forum to discuss pressing issues and recognize peers for outstanding achievement. The historic event, now in its 187th year, draws a wide-range of producers, suppliers, regulators, educators and promoters. In 2019, fallout from international trade disputes is top-of-mind for multiple commodities and rural communities across NYS and the nation who depend on a healthy export business to zero-out production surpluses and strengthen prices. The Forum featured four experts who brokedown the trade debate, discussed emerging opportunities, and addressed how best to resolve conflict without disrupting markets. Global expert, Dr. Robert Thompson, Tom Sleight of the U.S. Grains Council, Bill Schreiber of O-AT-KA Milk Products and Kathryn Bamberger of Empire State Development set the table for discussion.
US trade policy has evolved dramatically from the 1930s to establish rules of the jungle, according to Dr. Robert Thompson, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. With extensive work experience in more than 90 countries worldwide, Thompson quipped that President Donald Trump hasn’t read many of these as trade policy between friendly partners and others is now under the microscope and threatened. “The winds of trade have been whipping us,” said Thompson, “but that’s nothing new. Moving forward, there are many factors that will dramatically alter US agricultural trade policy that will be out of the hands of local producers, such as dynamic changes in global consumption, urbanization, production practices, land utilization, and climate change.”
The climax of the annual Forum is the presentation of the “State of the State” of agriculture address presented by Commissioner Richard Ball of the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets. “I’m glad to be at this family reunion,” said Ball. “I’m the luckiest man on the planet to be part of the 1% of the population that’s involved in agriculture and working for you in Albany. 2018 was a sobering year in terms of weather events, market upheavals, exports, unpredictable prices and the government shut-down. But NY agriculture is strong, diverse and produces high quality products. Our governor is asking us to question everything, so we can develop and implement applicable and accurate programs and policies. I travel to every corner of the state, and everything I see inspires me.”
Recognizing Agriculture’s Finest
Forum lunch and dinner programs honored agriculture’s promoters, journalists, cutting-edge producers, and
2019 Century & Bicentennial Farm Awards—Recognizing Eastern NY farms in 2019 that are in continuous
operation for 100 years or more by the same family on the same land.
- Century Farm: Hand Melon Farm of Greenwich, NY produces a signature sweet melon that was first trademarked in 1937. Today the operation is in the “hands” of the fourth and fifth generations who have focused exclusively on growing field crops and produce on their 425-acres, and operating two retail stands.
- Century Farm: Owners of Dellavale Farm have created a dairy of excellence in Pattersonville, NY—Montgomery County. The fourth generation is promoting agriculture through other ventures, including Dellavale Farm Dwellings, which provides a farm-stay for urban families.
- Bicentennial Farm: Danforth Jersey Farm was established in 1817. Founders were recognized for producing quality dairy products and livestock as early as 1893 at the Chicago World’s Fair. Today the farm produces butter, yogurt, bottled milk, fresh and aged cheeses from their prized Jersey herd.
Business of the Year—Awarded to both a producer and an agribusiness, recognizing quality, leadership and innovation.
- Producer Category: Located at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, Brooklyn Grange operates the world’s largest rooftop soil farms, located on two roofs in NYC. They grow over 50,000 pounds of produce per year, and operate an apiary.
- Agribusiness Category: Countryside Veterinary Clinic is the largest provider of veterinary services in northern NY, serving over 250 clients within Lewis, Oneida, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties.
Next Generation Farmer Award—Recognizing a long-time producer and those new to the industry who are farming in new and vibrant ways.
- Rulfs Orchards: Third generation sisters have created a year-round business which began as an orchard and traditional farm market. They have added a greenhouse, purchased a flower shop, and serve breakfast and lunch at their café located in Peru, NY—Clinton County.
- Wild Brute Winery: Launched with just two barrels in 2013, Justin Rechtenwald—owner of Wild Brute Winery—is a great example of the creative and independent spirit of the NYS wine industry. Given limited production capability, Rechtenwald opened a Hornell-based wine bar and New American eatery—The Brute—which showcases their wines as well as a wide variety of beers and wine from other NY labels.
Distinguished Service Citation—Recognizing an individual who has dedicated a lifetime of service, resulting in outstanding contributions to NY agriculture.
- Jim Allen: Serving the apple industry for over four decades, Jim Allen continues to make an impact for producers in 2019. For over 20 years he served with the NY Apple Association where he promoted NY apples in venues such as the NYC Marathon. Jim has worked hard to unite all producer groups from across the nation, chairing the US Apple Export Council three times.
Farm Safety Awards—The NYS Agricultural Society’s Farm Safety program recognizes farm operators who have unique and successful farm safety programs for their employees.
- Pedersen Farms: A diversified vegetable and grain farm based in Seneca Castle, NY, owners Rick and Laura Pedersen prioritize “safety first, work later” for their 42 employees. The operation produces a variety of vegetables, hops, and grains both organically and traditionally on approximately 1,500 acres.
- Hudson Valley Farm Hub (HVFH): HVFB is a non profit center operating on 1,255 acres in Hurley,
NY. It’s dedicated to professional farmer training, agricultural research, technology demonstration and
service as an educational resource for advances in food and farming. The farm has 41 employees.
NYS FFA Chapter of the Year—Founded nationally in 1925, FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of high school students by developing their potential for leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. The NYS Agricultural Society recognizes a NY chapter annually that exemplifies excellence in all categories.
- Pioneer Central School FFA, Yorkshire, NY: With approximately 100 active members, Pioneer FFA is active in local, state and national events. Pioneer is one of the largest geographical school districts in NYS covering approximately 250 square miles in parts of Erie, Wyoming, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties.
Ag Promotion Awards—Recognizes individuals and groups for their efforts to improve the understanding of agriculture in NYS.
- Wayne County Apple Tasting Tour: Operating in New York’s largest apple producing county, this partner based program drives visitors to the region in October and educates consumers about apples.
- Jeff Katris: Jeff Katris is the communications director at Indian Creek Farm and has attracted thousands of customers to the 40-acre farm with his “playful perspectives and fanciful tales.” His creative talents entertain and educate consumers young and old alike.
Cap Creal Journalism Awards—Named for farmer, Ag Society member and NYS Assemblyman Harold “Cap” Creal, the Cap Creal Journalism Awards were created to inspire positive coverage of NYS agriculture.
- Printed News Story: Paul Post, The Saratogian, “Analysts Sour on U.S. Milk System”
- Printed Feature Story: Corey Kilgannon, The New York Times, “When the Death of a Family Farm
Leads to Suicide”
- Printed Editorial: Bob Confer, Lockport Union-Sun Journal, “The Deadly Stress of Farming”
- Audio/Video News Clip: Dennis Webster, WJTN-WWSE, Farm Bureau Radio Show: “Grape Summit”
- Blogs/Online Feature: Jason Detzel CCE Livestock, “Are the Cows Cold?”
- Photograph: Julie Lewis, The Daily Star, “Fowl Play”
Established in 1832, the mission of the NYS Agricultural Society is to foster, promote, and improve the NYS food and agricultural industry through education, leadership development and recognition programs. Arguably one of the oldest organizations of its kind in the US, the Agricultural Society has played a vital role in the development of the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, Cornell University’s College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, the NYS Agricultural Experiment Station, the NYS Fair, and the Empire State Food and Agricultural Leadership Institute (LEADNY). In 2011, the NYS Agricultural Society Foundation was formed.
–NYS Agricultural Society
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